Tag Archive for green building

Green Infrastructure, Reduce the load on Sewer Systems

UPDATE 03/13/2015: The state has issued final permits to deal with the ongoing pollution problems from hundreds of sewer systems that filter raw sewage into the Hudson, Passaic, and Delaware rivers, as well as other waterways, during times of heavy rain. Read about it here.

CSO’s have been a problem for nearly a century. The recent order to start dealing with this issue in our older urban areas is a better late than never story. When I was a commissioner on the Interstate Environmental Commission, we made very small improvements in combating this problem.

The excuse was always that it would cost too much. What that really means is that no one wanted to make the users of the system pay the real cost of the system because it was politically painful.

Finally, we are moving forward…albeit slowly.

The most interesting thing is that some of the tenants of LEED and general green building ideas are now being touted as low cost methods of reducing storm water runoff. What an idea….don’t create the run off in the first place and it is easier to deal with.

polluted-water-overflow-from-sewage

A good start.

Read the full article:
Forum aims to help towns tackle cost of N.J.’s new rules on sewage dumping

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Legislation that makes Dollars and Cents….

As someone who argues that clients should incorporate green building practices into their projects, especially those with an emphasis on energy conservation, one of the great counter arguments is that no one will pay for those improvements when the property is sold. Thus, if the person is not staying in the building for very long the argument against the improvement is that the homeowner will not see the money.

Unless the owner sees things in a broader sense, and unfortunately, most don’t, this is a tough argument to counter. Until now, appraisers generally do not take energy conservation into account.

Many (but certainly not all) builders react the same way. They would rather put money into granite counter tops than energy efficiency since the prospective buyer can see the counter top and appraisers understand what that means.

Further, mortgage underwriters, including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration ignore energy efficiency in home valuations. This means that the extra money spent on high efficiency building, from insulation to lighting and HVAC systems, is treated as a cost rather than a benefit.

legislation that makes dollars and cents

As reported in The New York Times the U.S. Senate has introduced, and are you ready, a bipartisan piece of legislation called the SAVE ACT S-1106 (Sensible Accounting to Value Energy). This legislation would mandate that energy savings in homes be valued by mortgage lenders.

The legislation would “have to factor in energy cost savings…” and “…add the value of projected energy savings to the home’s value.” Also “…since mortgage amounts are based on a percentage of the home’s value, a higher value would translate into a larger mortgage”.

My goodness. This legislation would recognize the value of energy improvements, allow homeowners and builders to place a real value on those improvements and help everyone achieve a more efficient home.

Now, lest my friends that hate government subsidies think that this is just a government mandate without merit, the article notes that loan performance on energy efficient homes is better than on non-energy efficient homes. The Appraisal Institute found that default risks are 32% lower on Energy Star Homes than those that are not energy star rated. “The study examined 71,000 home loans from 2002 to 2012”.

I have argued that energy improvements are worth the investment for many years. To builders I have stated that they simply need to market the improvements the right way. Now the U.S. Senate has introduced a sound piece of legislation that might pass and help builders and homeowners while reducing energy demand.

Let us hope that the House of Representatives can see the light.
(For more information, see the attached legislative fact sheet put out by the Institute for Market Transformation. This is provided for information purposes only.)

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Building Green: Are You Green Enough?

In the June, 2011 edition of “New Jersey Lawyer,” Harry E. McLellan, III ESQ outlined several legal issues as they pertain to LEED building certification. The fundamental theme of the article is simple; at least as I see it, Green Building is now main – stream.  Perhaps more importantly, this article points out that people are suing green building professionals because buildings aren’t green enough!

When I started in the environmental field, we were fighting for the day when environmental concepts were accepted as standard business practices. Well, the green building industry made it. Professionals are now being sued, are you ready, because building projects that they designed are deemed to be not green enough!

Congratulations to the green building industry!

Of course, in this country, lawsuits are nothing new. Everybody wants guarantees with no risk, and of course, they want these guarantees at no cost. In the green building industry, people assume that everything should work exactly as predicted in a new building (just like in a regular building) and when a building performs at a level less than predicted, it must not be green enough. So, if a building is designed to save 20% on energy costs, and it saves only 15%, there are those customers who think they should sue somebody; in other words, treat the green building industry just like everybody else.

These lawsuits should provide all of us in the green building field with a key lesson. Be careful what you promise, and deliver all that you can and more.

As for the customer, be careful what you ask for and be reasonable in your expectations. More importantly, understand that in green building, the sage rule of design still holds. A project time line should be comprised of 90% planning and 10% implementation.

On any project that I have worked on, where that rule has been followed, things have worked out fine. Where the rule is violated, there are always problems.

Hooray for the green industry, we are mainstream.

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Economy, Ecology and the Future N.J. Raritan River Region

What’s In It for Us?

On June 16, 2011 New Jersey’s Sustainable Raritan River Initiatives held a conference at Rutgers University’s Cook College in New Brunswick, New Jersey. To this writer, the key element of this conference was the fine print….What’s in it for Us? When speaking to environmental issues, it is important to understand that we are the primary beneficiaries of sound environmental practices.

I found it interesting that each of my co-presenters dealt with economics and the environment. Cudos to each and every one for bringing this issue to the forefront.…for too long we have separated economics and the environment.

Unfortunately, it appears that there are some who still think that 19th century industrial practices are still economically viable…including some elected officials.

I was privileged to present on the economics of green building. To demonstrate that green building is not a cost but an investment that can pay returns in three years was most gratifying.

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